NFL Offseason Programs: A Basic Explanation of What to Expect in the Next Three Months

The Seahawks still have to wait at least two weeks - until April 16th - before their official but non-mandatory offseason workout/practice program can go into effect, but teams with new head coaches can start today. Basically, under the new CBA - and you can stop reading now if you already now how this works - teams are allotted a time period of ten weeks in which to get nine weeks of work in. So this means, for every team, but specifically the Seahawks, because you love the Seahawks, that the franchise is allowed to do nine weeks of practice that are separated into three phases. In every phase, the team is only allowed to work out Monday through Friday and only four days in a given week. The three phases are broken down into basic strength and conditioning, individual instruction and organized team activities.

David Fucillo of SB Nation Bay Area fame broke it down nicely over there and took the CBA legalese and translated it to generally understandable English. I took that, and put the three phases into my own words:

Phase One: the first phase's primary goal is for strength and conditioning and/or injury rehab. Strength and conditioning coaches will work with the players on the field but regular position coaches are not allowed. This isn't a traditional practice - more akin to a group workout with a little bit of guidance from strength coaches. No pads. This should be a great chance for John Moffitt, Mike Williams, and hopefully James Carpenter to get on the field a bit and start getting back to playing condition. Typically lasts about two weeks.

Phase Two: the second phase is typically three weeks, and brings in coaches and on-field workouts. The teams are allowed to bring all coaches but are not allowed to wear pads or helmets, (non-hitting practice). This is a way for teams to team on-field schematics and principles without instructing on hitting and all that. Matt Flynn and Tarvaris Jackson should start their competition in earnest at this point, to get a hold of the offense, start developing chemistry with receivers, getting terminology or any changes down, etc. Same with the defensive side of the football.

Phase Three: the third phase, which covers the four weeks, is where the famous Organized Team Activities (OTAs) come in. These are more like traditional practice with helmets but they're not full contact, as players don't wear pads. Again, used for getting acclimated back into football without the physical rigors of full-contact.

In late July or early August, training camp begins in earnest, and teams are allowed to start hitting and practicing in full pads again.

Here is the official language on the CBA if you prefer legal form, concerning off-season workouts and OTAs.

If a Club hires a new head coach after the end of the prior regular season, that Club may schedule or conduct an offseason workout program for no more than nine total weeks, with eight of the weeks required to be consecutive and subject to Article 22, Section 3, to be completed over a twelve-week period. All other Clubs may schedule or conduct offseason workout programs for no more than nine consecutive total weeks, to be completed over a ten-week period. In either case, Clubs may schedule no more than four workouts per week for any individual player. Such workout programs shall not be permitted on weekends.

(b) Each Club's official nine-week offseason workout program shall be conducted in three phases, as follows:

(i) Phase One. Phase One shall consist of the first two weeks of the Club's offseason workout program. ... Phase One activities shall be limited to strength and conditioning and physical rehabilitation only. During Phase One, only full time or part-time strength and condi­tioning coaches, who have no other coaching responsibilities with the Club, shall be allowed on the field; no other coaches shall be allowed on the field or to otherwise par­ticipate in or observe activities. No footballs shall be permitted to be used (only "dead ball" activities), except that quarterbacks may elect to throw to receivers provided they are not covered by any other player. Players cannot wear helmets during Phase One.

(ii) Phase Two. Phase Two shall consist of the next three weeks of the Club's offseason workout program. Subject to the additional rules set forth in Section 5 of this Article, during Phase Two all coaches shall be allowed on the field. On-field wor­kouts may include individual player instruction and drills, as well as "perfect play" drills (e.g., offense or defense only, but not offense vs. defense), or special teams drills on a "separates" basis (e.g.., kicking team or return team only, but not kicking team vs. return team). No live contact or team offense vs. team defense drills are permitted. No offense vs. defense drills are permitted (e.g.., no one-on-one offensive linemen vs. defensive linemen pass rush or pass protection drills, no wide receivers vs. defensive backs bump­ and-run drills, and no one-on-one special teams drills involving both offense and defense are permitted.) Players cannot wear helmets during Phase Two.

(iii) Phase Three. Phase Three shall consist of the next four weeks of the Club's offseason workout program ... during Phase Three each Club may conduct a total of ten days of organized team practice activity ("OTAs" or "OTA days") ... The Club may conduct a maximum of three days of OTAs during each of the first two weeks of Phase Three.

A maximum of four days of OTAs may be conducted during either the third week or the fourth week of Phase Three, with the Mandatory Veteran Minicamp (Article 22, Section 2) to be held during the other week. During weeks in which the Club conducts only three days of OTAs, the Club may also conduct a fourth day of non-OTA workouts ... During Phase Three, all coaches shall be allowed on the field.

No live contact is permitted. No one-on-one offense vs. defense drills are permitted (i.e., no offensive linemen vs. defensive linemen pass rush or pass protection drills, no wide receivers vs.defensive backs bump-and-run drills, and no one-on-one special teams drills involving both offense and defense are permitted). Special teams drills (e.g., kicking team vs. return team) are permitted, provided no live contact occurs. Team offense vs. team defense drills, including all drills listed in Appendix G to this Agreement, are permitted, provided no live contact occurs. Clubs may require players to wear helmets; no shells are permit­ ted during Phase Three of the Club's offseason workout program or any minicamp.

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